Saturday, October 14, 2006


Reuters supports citizen journalism with $100,000 grant

On Thursday's "blogfest" on Town Square we touched a little bit on citizen journalism. Well, I'm behind in my reading and just learned that Reuters has given a no-strings-attached grant to NewAssignment.Net about a month ago. Watch that web page, big things are sure to happen.

Bloggers may or may not be journalists. I found myself in the Hawaii Public Radio studio sharing the mikes with three professional journalists who happen to be among the most-read bloggers in the state. I don't claim to be a journalist even if sometimes I might report some news. I had fun as managing editor of the college newspaper and even learned to operate a Linotype machine and a Ludlow headline setter. I know what type lice are. But that was long ago and far away and mostly just a lot of fun.

The fact is that anyone can start a blog. Statistics vary, but I recall a claim that 15,000 blogs are started each day. There's also a thriving Indymedia movement producing multimedia reports, documentaries and entertainment of all sorts. The technology is not a barrier to these mostly young filmmakers and producers.

The Citizen Journalism movement is a couple of notches up from that. As newspapers cut back staff and radio and TV stations conglomerate, everyone is looking to the Internet for the Next Big Thing in journalism. Whatever that might be. It just might be Citizen Journalism.

Over on the left side of the NewAssignment.Net site is a blogroll with some of the key players. OhMyNews International, for example, is the English language site of a major experiment in citizen journalism in Korea. Check it out. There are several others.

At the same time, newspapers are moving to the Internet. The Advertiser's new blogs are part of that. Traditional media are moving onto the blog and podcast scene very quickly, and of course with big bucks.

One interesting approach is the New York Times Reader. I keep it on my tablet PC. It updates itself with the free content from the NY Times which I can read whenever and wherever I like. I think the tablet must weigh less than a genuine print copy of the NY Times. Maybe this is the way newspapers will be distributed in the future. I'd sure prefer to get my morning paper this way. Plus, it keeps a week of archives. All inside this flat little computer that goes where I go, eats what I eat. The text reflows as I select articles or re-size the font. It's actually an amazing piece of software.

If the citizen journalism movement intersects with this kind of software in the future, we'll truly be able to do it ourselves. Our way. The MainStreamMedia will have to justify their very existence. Beat reporters will find teenagers with cellphones or tiny computers sitting next to them at press briefings. They will have to get used to the fact that articles posted by that pimply kid will be on the web in moments, and theirs won't see print until the next day. By which time, for those who surf the web for their daily news fix, it's already old stuff.

Citizen journalism will become popular not because the untrained and unwashed are better than the pros--of course not. It will grow because the amateurs are more nimble, more innovative, and more in touch with what really interests readers. Some are pretty good writers and experienced advocates.

And the movement will grow because many will work just for the fun of it. That's hard to beat.


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